A dear friend of mine shared a link to a Ted Talk with me last night, “everything you think you know about addiction is wrong” by Johann Hari, a British journalist who spent three years researching the war on drugs. The talk touches on several important issues that we as a society are facing, and one that is essential to understand adolescence, which goes beyond addiction and is the source of a lot more problems; disconnection.
Johann mentions “the connections we have are a parody of human connection…it isn’t our twitter followers who are going to be there for us when we are in a crisis.” Adolescence is a time when everything seems to be a matter of life and death, when your best friends are like twin sisters and problems seem like the end of the world. I remember when I was young I thought I could only have one best friend and I would categorize every friendship, and now I realize that friendships are an amazing gift in life and that healthy relationships are essential for our human development. So, what happens during adolescence when we get in a fight with our best friend? Our parents don’t understand us? And I’m not in a mood to fit into another group? We feel alone.
We are one of the loneliest societies there has ever been. Technology allows us to connect indeed, but when in the present moment you feel upset and lonely, flipping your Instagram feed might just make it worse. Johann explains the case of Portugal during his talk; Portugal decriminalized drugs in order to reduce drug addiction. What’s interesting about the case of Portugal is that this measure had to be aligned with the right social policy strategies, which for them meant to reconnect people with a drug addiction back in society. This meant that the government invested in prevention strategies as well as treatment strategies. Treatment strategies included investing in entrepreneurial programs so that they could start small businesses.
Why start small businesses? What does that have to do with reconnecting with society? The answer is: purpose. We as human beings need to find our purpose, “how we view ourselves and the world around us impacts our ability to dream and achieve” states the organization Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Entrepreneurship has been argued to be a tool for youth to see things with a different mindset, to see things in a way they hadn’t before and in curiosity, innovation, perseverance and resilience they understand that there is a purpose for all of us. Entrepreneurship is a valuable tool to fully understand how we are all interconnected and that everything we do affects another human being in one way or another.
I have been working with entrepreneurial programs for youth for a couple of years now and part of the development of the youth program I’m building is based precisely in entrepreneurship, for now I’m missing the right human development components in order to succeed in the process of reintegrating youth that have been broken by the system already. Please do join me in the journey.
For more information Portugal’s drug policy, the Open Society Foundation published two interesting articles on the topic: https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/sites/default/files/drug-policy-in-portugal-english-20120814.pdf
If you are more the video type, The Economist published this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7LKfLxVtzE